Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was arrested Tuesday on charges of conspiring to get financial benefits through his authority to appoint a U.S. senator to fill the vacancy left by Barack Obama's election as president.
According to a federal criminal complaint, Blagojevich also was charged with illegally threatening to withhold state assistance to Tribune Co., the owner of the Chicago Tribune, in the sale of Wrigley Field. In return for state assistance, Blagojevich allegedly wanted members of the paper's editorial board who had been critical of him fired.
A 76-page FBI affidavit said the 51-year-old Democratic governor was intercepted on court-authorized wiretaps over the last month conspiring to sell or trade the vacant Senate seat for personal benefits for himself and his wife, Patti.
The affidavit said Blagojevich discussed getting a substantial salary for himself at a nonprofit foundation or an organization affiliated with labor unions.
It is unfortunately rather unremarkable to find out that an Illinois' politician is involved in corruption. The sort of corruption that Blagojevich is accused of is the sort of cynical smoke filled room politics that is the stuff of political thrillers as well as daily business in Springfield. What is remarkable about this story is the timing. For several months, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has been investigating Blagojevich in connection to criminality that has resulted from the convictions of political power players like Tony Rezko and indictments of William Cellini.
In other words, as the noose was tightening around Blagojevich in criminality wholly unrelated, he proceeded to engage in receiving bribes (if of course the charges are true) for the nomination of the vacant Senate seat left by President Elect Obama. Among the many things that Blagojevich was originally being investigated for was bribery in relation to a scheme known as pay to play in which government contracts are rewarded as part of a quid pro quo after businesses or individuals provide the right government official with campaign contributions. Well, part of this current indictment is the allegation that Blagojevich demanded campaign contributions in exchange for Obama's seat. In other words, he was performing the exact same scheme he was being investigated for. There is just an overwhelming amount of hubris associated with an individual that thinks they can get away with performing the exact same crime they are being investigated for.
The amount of corruption and hubris that it would take for someone that knows they are under serious investigation to then proceed and commit more of the very same crimes that they are already being investigated for is simply stunning. One would think that if the criminal noose were being tightened around you, the last thing you would do is commit more crimes. Instead, it appears, according to the indictment, that Blagojevich saw the noose tightening and saw yet another opportunity to use his power as Governor to corrupt even more.
Obviuosly, he was so corrupt that he didn't see his actions as being corrupt. From his point of view, who else would he pick for Senator than a friend whose support he could count on?
I didn't put this in the piece because I thought of it afterwards but everything I know about mobsters, from the movies, when they know they are being investigated they lay low. That's what is stunning. He knew he was being investigated and proceeded to commit the exact same crime he was being investigated on.
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